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This week, we explore the cooking of Colombia with Mariana Velásquez, from homemade arepas to the influence of Middle Eastern ingredients like sesame and labneh. Plus, we explore the secret world of creating food emojis with artist Yiying Lu, Adam Gopnik ponders the elements of dinner, and we present a recipe for potato salad with Sichuan peppercorns.
Questions in this episode:
"I am having a debate with a friend and we need to settle this score! We need to know if olive oil is a good oil to pan fry with or if you should use something else."
"The other night I made dumplings the way I have been doing it for about a year now. I cooked them in my nonstick skillet, then added water and placed the lid of my enamel coated cast iron Dutch oven to allow them to steam. This time, the lid got so stuck that I haven't been able to get it off for days (and the dumplings are still inside!). I've tried heating it back up slowly, cooling it, heating the pan while cooling the lid, nothing's worked. Any advice?"
"I have an upcoming steak competition. Do you have any recommendations for the cut of meat, seasonings, sauces and techniques I can use to win the competition?"
Christopher Kimball: This is mostly radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Today cookbook author Mariana Velazquez invites us on a culinary tour of Colombia, including the street food in Bogota, the magical river that inspired Gabrielle Garcia Marquez, and the influence of Middle Eastern ingredients on Colombian cuisine. We also hear about other traditions that have endured, including a passion for radio.
Mariana Velazquez: In rural towns in smaller towns, people still go home for lunch. People still have a siesta, take a nap after eating. But Colombia is changing slowly. My husband works in radio and will always talk about how the power of radio continues to be huge in our country. Because there's places where we literally like TV signals hard to get, even to this day, it is more important to be on radio than on TV.
CK: Later on Adam Gopnik considers adopting new dining habits, and we learn a recipe for potato salad dressed and chili oil but first it is my interview with graphic designer Yiying Lu, you may already be familiar with some of her work. She's the creator of many food based emojis including the dumpling the fortune cookie, takeout box, chopsticks, and a cup of boba tea. Yiying welcome to Milk Street.
Yiying Lu: Thank you for having me.
CK: So, emojis obviously came from Japan. How did they get started and what were some of the early emojis like?
YL: So, the word emoji, it's the English pronunciation of the Japanese emoji. Literally, the translation is drawing characters. Obviously, the pictorial language itself date way back but the idea of emoji is really kind of started in 1999. And it was designed originally from Docomo, which is a Japanese communication company, kind of in the eight-bit fashion. And later on because we have Apple smartphones, and with more colors that's how we get the emoji we're using today.
CK: So, I think I sort of knew this, but didn't believe it, where there's this tiny group of people like 20 people who vote on emojis. It's just this really strange medieval process. So, so I mean, who picks these people they pick themselves? Do they meet in a secret room? I mean how does it work?
YL: It is kind of a secret room, if you really kind of looking at it. And it is, indeed, a group of people called the Unicode Consortium, which is a nonprofit that's in Silicon Valley. And I think it's around 20 different organizations from larger tech company, Apple, Google, Facebook, to government of Oman. And yeah, it was just really fascinating that you do have these people deciding the keyboard that billions of people are using.
CK: So, talk to us about the first emoji you did the dumpling. What was the process like?
YL: It was quite a funny story, because in 2015, I moved to San Francisco from Sydney, Australia. And it just so happened that my friend, Jenny 8 Lee, also moved to San Francisco in the same year. So, we met up for dumplings. She texted me a photo of the pot sticker dumplings. And I always tried to reply to her with a dumpling emoji only found out that there was no dumpling emoji on my phone. So, I just went back to my desk, and I was like, well, I'm a designer, I can probably do something about it. So, I just designed the very first version of the dumpling emoji, which is a sort of empanada looking with the blinking heart eye dumpling. It's personified and was actually inspired by the poopy emoji, just so you know. And I sent it back to her.
CK: That's always inspirational, of course,
YL: Yes, it is the circle of life, right?)
CK: That's true.
YL: Well, I sent it to her. She liked it. She's like, this is really great we should probably submit it to the consortium. And so, Jennifer did some research, find out the Unicode Consortium and and then we kind of submit the design and a proposal to them.
CK: So so that didn't work out though. Right. The first design?
YL: They came back to me, they said, it will be better if we design it in a way that is more generic because most of the food emojis doesn't have facial expression on it. And so, I went back, and I redesigned it after eating many more dumplings, and the inspiration was sort of coming from more of a crescent moon design style simply because, you know other parts of the world like the empanadas, the pierogi, pal minis, they all have the similar half-moon style. So, it's more universal than the bow shape.
CK: I kind of like your first one though, with heart eyes. I mean, it's it's the anthropomorphic, you know, which I like. But anyway, I like it too. I mean, how could you not like a smiling, happy dumpling?
YL: I agree. Well, here's the thing that I found it was quite fascinating. When I was visiting Shanghai, which is my hometown in 2017, I was working on a project to personify the dumplings into dumpling characters, kind of an extension of the initial, the heart eye dumpling emoji that I designed. And one of my colleagues was asking me a question about what is the origin of wonton, which, which is the soup dumpling, so I did some research and it was actually originated from the Chinese character _____meaning primordial chaos.
CK: So, like, explain to me primordial chaos really?
YL: Yeah, so the primordial chaos is the state of chaos before the big bang, (right) And if you think about it, especially like the soup dumpling, it's just a bunch of goo inside this package of a gnome. And so, every single time when you eat a dumpling, metaphorically, you're opening up a new universe in your mouth. And what's also fascinating is in the Ming Dynasty, in this book called Classic Mountain and Sea the way that they illustrate primordial chaos was this sort of like a dumpling looking thing that has four wings and six legs, but has no face because according to them, once they have facial expressions, the primordial chaos died, and the universe begins.
CK: I will never eat a dumpling the same way again. Now, that's, that's brilliant. I love the idea. So how did they emojis are, besides the actual design, are accepted or not based upon, like how often people would be likely to use, like, the term dumpling as an emoji? Is that how they decide?
YL: There's a lot of deciding factors. And one of them obviously, is the historical significance of that particular lexicon. The boba emoji, for example, it was rejected when I submit it around the same time as the dumpling because at the time, there wasn't enough evidence to show the significance of the drink on a data level. Each year, the consortium only released certain numbers of emojis, and so they do have to be quite selective.
CK: But the emoji was was a very practical thing to start with. But now it's becoming something else. What is what is that something else? For sure,
YL: For sure, yeah, it's interesting. When I first designed the dumpling emoji, it was really kind of a way of self-expression. And then I realize it also encapsulate a lot of cultural identity and representation. Because the initial emoji design originated from Japan. It was designed for the Japanese audiences. And so, there's different cultural groups would look at it and they don't see themselves in the emoji representation. For example, there was no hijab woman there. And also, food wise, the recent Alibaba emoji, which is the Latin cornbread, that was really huge towards the Latin-x, folks, because these are the food that they eat every day.
CK: So, you must believe that emojis are more than just a little icon, that they have some more intrinsic cross-cultural meaning that makes them important.
YL: Absolutely. To me, I think visual language is a super language. It transcends the linguistic barriers, it in some way really bring people together. And it's so powerful.
CK: Maybe in a hundred years, we won’t all just be speaking emoji. we want you to actually use language.
YL: Actually, yeah but then again, if you think about it in some way, we are already speaking emojis. I met a mom to be and as soon as she knew that I designed the dumpling emoji. She was so excited, and she said, You know, I'm just about to have my baby and and I've been calling it the little dumplings. Every time I send a message to my husband, I use the dumpling emoji to represent our upcoming baby, so I think people already speaking in that language.
CK: Yiying thank you so much. It's it's been fun and a pleasure. Thank you.
YL: Thank you for having me.
CK: That was emoji creator Yiying Lu. She's also the arts commissioner of San Francisco. Okay, it's time for my co-host Sara Moulton and I to answer some of your cooking questions. Sara is of course the author of Home Cooking 101, and she stars on Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television.
Sara Moulton: So, Chris, what is your favorite hot beverage? It can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic?
CK: Me coffee. I mean, what else is there?
SM: Well, there is hot chocolate,
CK: No coffee, and I'm very particular, of course about how it's made and everything else. But I make my own coffee in the morning. And I like it just so.
SM: Okay, tell me about your coffee. Well, I
CK: Well, I do a French press, which I tried all the methods. I tried the machines and I've tried everything else and the pour overs and the stovetop, the Moka pots, but the French press, you can control it. coarsely grounds. Not too much coffee too hot water. I only let it sit for three minutes, which is about half of what most people do, because you don't get all the bitterness. And then I put it directly into a thermos, so it doesn't cool down.
SM: Do you grind your own beans? Or do you have it ground?
CK: Grind your own beans, there's a roaster in Portland, Maine, actually we're friends with and every week they send us beans. And that's really critical.
SM: What kind?
CK: I like the less roasted coffee. I don't like dark roast. I think they're much too bitter and strong. I mean, they're great for espresso. But for an American cup of coffee, I like light to medium roast
SM: And milk or no milk?
CK: Oh, you’ve got to have milk with coffee. Yeah, because the milk sweetens it, it balances it out. I don't like half and half and just a little bit of sugar.
SM: Ah, okay. Well, geez, that was a nice little story about coffee
CK: Now you get a whole recipe from me, right?
SM: Yes. Okay. Well, let's take a call.
CK: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, my name is Amanda.
CK: And you're calling from?
Caller: I am calling from Vassar College.
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: My friend and I have been having a fight over what the best oil is to use to pan fry. He says olive oil. I say something else like neutral oil with the higher smoke point. But we can't really resolve it on ourselves. And we need answers.
CK: Well, I love this question. Because in Italy and other places, Spain, where they, they only really have olive oil so they use it for everything, right? I mean, that's what they have. It turns out and we tested this not too long ago that a refined olive oil, especially a light olive oil, like Pompeo oil or whatever, has a very high smoke point. It's around 450. So, you can go ahead and deep fry in a refined olive oil it'll be just fine. You know, the best oils in terms of smoke point get up to maybe 474 80. So, it's perfectly respectable. And so, a light inexpensive supermarket olive oil is just great. You should also have a really good olive oil for drizzling like for salad dressings, whatever. But yeah, go ahead. I use grapeseed oil a lot. Processed olive oil is fine. Just vegetable oil is fine, but you go ahead and use it if it's refined, Sara?
SM: Well, I was going to say also in terms of sautéing, the oil gets pretty hot. But I do use you know not drizzling olive oil, but extra virgin olive oil and apparently even though extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point. So, it would never be my choice for deep frying. It tends to be more stable when heated beyond its smoke point, so it doesn't break down as quickly as other oils. I would certainly use as Chris said the refined olive oil for deep frying, although generally I reach for something else. But in terms of sautéing, I have no problem with extra virgin olive oil. I like the same brand I think the Chris does, which is the California Olive Branch. But then I have a really nice, more expensive and also just better-quality Italian or whatever to drizzle with. So that's how I do it.
CK: And we also have to get over this thing about Italian olive oils, please. No, no, no. I mean, my favorite olive oil comes from Lebanon, actually. So, there's so many wonderful olive oils. And a lot of the Italian olive oils are from olives grown in other places anyway, Italians have great olive oil, but so do other countries in southern Europe and around the Mediterranean. So, there's no reason necessarily to buy Italian versus Lebanese for example.
SM: I agree. There are some wonderful oils coming out of Spain too in fact, Spain is one of the biggest suppliers of Italian olive oil.
CK: That was my olive oil speech by the way. (yeah) Anyway, so go ahead. Refined olive oil is fine. It's got a nice high smoke point don’t worry about it.
Caller: Great. Thanks so much.
CK: Thanks Amanda
SM: All right. Take care. Bye bye
CK: Welcome to Milk Street Who's calling?
Caller: This is Grant Rogers.
CK: How are you?
Caller: I'm doing pretty good.
CK: How old are you if I may ask?
Caller: I am 13
CK: Good for you, how can we help you?
Caller: I actually have a steak competition. And I also just like cooking steaks. (Yeah) So I was wondering what like techniques and tips you have, like I also like making different sauces for them. And then at my dad's house, I also have a sous vide
CK: Well, my standard method is to take a thick cut steak out of the fridge, salt it with coarse salt, all sides, put it on a wire rack over a baking sheet, let it sit for an hour, throw it into a 250 oven, until the internal temperature of the steak comes up to about 90 or 95 degrees, something like that, 90 to 100. Take it out, and then throw it on the grill or throw it on a griddle pan or undo a cast iron pan on the stovetop, cook it over very high heat just very quickly, both sides get a nice sear, until the temperatures up to whatever you like 120 - 125. So that would be my go-to. Sous vide’s also great. The same thing is the ovens like a sous vide. You get it up to 95 or 100 degrees, take it out and then finish it off with a sear. That idea of slowly bringing the temperature up also means the outside of the steak’s not going to be over cooked by the time the insides up the temperature, which is the big problem, right? And use thick steaks. Now there's lots of other things you could do. As you said, you can do pan sauces, you could put rubs on it. Sara, you probably have some ideas for flavoring, right?
SM: Well, yeah, I mean, I was going to say you want to consider what steak you're going to use, as well as what you're going to do to it afterwards. Because a really good steak makes a difference. This is a competition so they're probably looking for something besides the method that Chris just described which I heartily endorse.
Caller: It's just an informal competition.
Caller: I have a church group thing, and we plan some activities. And one of the activities we planned was the steak competition. They mentioned they did that a while ago. And I just mentioned oh, that's kind of cool. Because like two nights before I made ___ with the demiglace sauce.
SM: Oh, wow.
CK: Wow, wait, wait a minute
SM: That's impressive.
CK: Now now, okay, this is the young Jacque Pepin here. (yes) And one of the things you could do is just come up with a fabulous spice rub right for the steak or you could do a really powerful sauce, for example, you know at Milk Street we love all these wild flavors, like gochujang from South Korea or harissa. You could do a quick pan sauce with some really strong fermented sauce, or chili paste that might, you know, really set yours apart, right, Sara?
SM: Yeah, I mean, I don't know if I'm boring, or I'm a purist my favorite way to have a steak is finish it with some really good olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and some chopped chorizo’s that's the Italian way. I also love herb butters. When the steak is resting, you put slices of butter, some really nicely flavored butter on top and the butter sort of melts with the juices from the steak. Maybe do like smoked paprika.
CK: Oh, that's a good idea
SM: Or chipotle. For me. A beautiful steak should be beautifully cooked and then whatever you put on it, you put on it afterwards, so it's sort of fresh, and it will mingle with the juices from the steak.
CK: There's one other trick you might try. If you mix softened butter with miso, that is really good. And miso’s got umami flavor.
SM: Yeah, I like that idea.
Caller: All right.
CK: Do you win anything if you come out and win first?
Caller: Bragging rights pretty much.
SM: Well, that’s fine
CK: The older I get the more I like bragging rights. That’s a pretty good thing to win. Good for you. And the fact that you know how to make a demiglace is pretty cool.
SM: Yeah. So, we're both very impressed.
CK: Big fans. Grant take care great to talk to you.
SM: Yeah, we wish you good luck.
CK: Okay, man.
Caller: Thank you. Bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you need cooking advice, give us a ring anytime Our number is 854-269-8431. One more time 854-269-8431. Or you can email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Scott calling from Cambridge MA.
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: I've loved making dumplings this past year. And I've always cooked them in a nonstick skillet and added water and then put a lid on it. But my nonstick skillet does not have a lid. And I've always used the lid to my enamel coated cast iron Dutch oven. The last time I did this, it got so stuck
CK: I was going to say this is not going to end well.
Caller: No, no, it has not ended well. And I'm wondering if you have any advice on how I could probably get it unstuck.
CK: So, the lid to the Dutch oven was slightly smaller so it's sitting on the surface of the nonstick skillet?
Caller: Correct yeah
CK: And what have you done to try to unstick it?
Caller: I’ve tried a lot of things. So, I’ve heated up the pan slowly, I've tried putting it in the freezer, I've tried heating it up with like ice on top to heat the pan and cooled the lid.
Caller: nothing's really worked so far.
CK: So, the things you've tried it would seem to me would dislodge it, if it wasn't really a powerful vacuum. Have you tried taking the equivalent of a screwdriver at the point that the cover hits the skillet and trying to just gently pry it open?
Caller: I've tried with a butter knife, I can definitely get something thinner, or I can try something thinner but yeah
CK: Here's the dumb thing I would do, I would get very flat broad screwdriver, very thin tip. And I would get a wooden mallet and very gently tap it with the lowest possible angle between the skillet and the top because I don't think heat and coal are going to solve this problem at this point. Now that may I do have a legal thing we can say now Sara, about don't try this at home
SM: I know really,
CK: I don't want the callback where you're in the hospital say the thing flew off.
SM: I have I have one other idea. (Okay) because I'm thinking, you know, when a top of a jar won't come off, you run it under hot water, the idea of that is heat will make it expand. The problem is you don't want the lid to expand because it's already stuck. You want the pan to expand.
CK: I think it's different than a lid that stuck. It's a vacuum problem, which means that the pressure inside the lid is lower than the pressure outside the lid, right? You have a vacuum and that's what's forcing it down on the pan. So, the question is what is going to reduce the vacuum? What would reduce the vacuum is if there was liquid in there that would boil and create steam, but there's no liquid in there. That's why there's a vacuum. So, I think Sara we're stumped.
SM: I do. I was glad you got this question. Not me.
CK: Is this like a really nice Le Creuset kind of top or something?
CK: Yeah. Okay.
SM: What if you turned it upside down and banged on the bottom of the pan or something?
Caller: I could try that. Yeah.
CK: What just to make you feel better? What, is that?
SM: I mean like actually try to like jerk it
CK: Okay, here's what you got to do. Turn the pan upside down, get a metal bit and your drill and just drill a hole right in the middle of the pan. And that'll solve the problem. Throw out the pan. Save the top. That's going to be the solution. Right?
SM: I think you're probably right.
Caller: Well at least I can take one
CK: And could you please like video this process?
CK: Because I want to see this.
SM: Let us know how it goes.
Caller: I will
CK: Scott. Take care.
Caller: You too.
CK: You’re listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next, we're heading to Colombia with Mariana Velazquez. That's right up after the break. This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Right now, it's my interview with recipe developer and food stylist Mariana Velasquez about her book Colombiana. Mariana, welcome to Milk Street
Mariana Velazquez: Thank you so much, Chris.
CK: I love Colombia never been there. Tell us a little bit about it. The different cultures, the different districts etc.
MV: So, Colombia is a rather small country, you know, is only 45 million people. But even though the area is not larger than Texas, because of our landscape and our geography, the country is very vast in a sense. It's, it has all these different regions, we have the Andes going through the country from north to south. And so, imagine Christmas is a place where you're in Bogota, for instance and you're 9000 feet up in the mountains. And you know, it's cold and it's foggy and it has all these pine trees and it's a very mountain weather like and then you drive an hour down the road to a different altitude and you have tropicália warm weather. So, we have all climates, we have an ocean in the Pacific side and the Caribbean side. And it's just a really rich country, you know, nature wise, which in turn makes it for a delicious and very varied food as well. You know when I'm asked what is Colombian cooking? The answer is never short because our food is very regional. So you have the different places that really celebrate the local ingredients. And so, food stays pretty local, from town to town,
CK: A short answer to a very complicated question. So, the indigenous population, talk about that and talk about the food that goes with that.
MV: So, we have a great food heritage from the native Colombians. You know, corn was the base of the cuisine. And because the communities are sort of spread out from the Pacific Coast, the northern side of the country that t shares its border with Panama, the Amazons, the P ___Mayo region, the cuisine is, you know, I love it, because the cooking methods are very rich, and still super traditional, like burying food, you know, like hard cuts of meat underground, so that it cooks for a long time, overnight, even underground, and you have incredible preparations that they make with that all kinds of fermented drinks, like Chicha and Masato. And it's all you know, it's very foraged base, which, which, to me is fascinating. You know, I'm in Brooklyn. And when you think about walking out your door, and really finding incredible varieties of yuca’s have different cactus fruit, herbs, and that is also you know, there's also a very strong medicinal culture in our indigenous communities.
CK: One of my favorite books 100 Years of Solitude, you write, that actually part of it was located in Magdalena. Could you just talk about that?
MV: Yeah. So, the Magdalena River, I mean, I always say that Garcia Marquez didn't really invent anything he really just observed, because it is truly a magical place where all kinds of bizarre things happen. So, the Magdalena basin is actually lower than sea level. So, it's a very warm and tropical area where there's all the banana plantations essentially, are the banana fields. And you have the combination of native Colombians, slaves that were brought over by the Spaniards and the colonizers centuries before. All that Syrian Lebanese influence from immigrants came into the country at the beginning of last century, in a couple, a couple of different groups. And then also that kind of Spanish heritage. So, you have this combination of cultures of flavor of believes that really makes our cuisine be pretty unique, but also the culture is based on on song, you know, it's all about storytelling. We know how stories were told or how things were communicated were either by radio, or by these songs that people would write to tell the tales of the towns that were nearby. It is a fascinating place. You know, I've never been asked that question. And, and I think about it, and I can't wait to go back.
CK: So, you mentioned Syria and Lebanon, your great grandfather Don Felix left Beirut, to come to Colombia. Why were so many people emigrating from that part of the world to Colombia?
MV: So, there was one moment where Lebanon was taken over by Turkey, and they, you know, was just people were trying to find other ways. And Colombia became an option because for a short moment, it was one of the Latin American countries that opened its borders. And they came and they settled, and they were merchants, and they brought with them everything that's, you know, that exquisite taste of the Middle East, you know, eggplant, sesame, labneh, which we call ____ now. All those ingredients that were not native to Colombia are now intrinsically part of our food.
CK: The Colombian pantry, obviously, coconut milk, panella the dark sugar, masa harina but there are few things annatto maybe, yuca flour, what are some of the things that you would absolutely want to have in your pantry to cook out of your book?
MV: So, annatto, you know, or achiote the red powder that's a great seasoning. I use it all the time. And it's, it's wonderful.
CK: You want to explain to people what it is and what it tastes like.
MV: Yeah, so it's essentially a seed from a flower pod, that's a small shrub. And it's really flavorful, they take it out, they grind it in make into a powder. And it tastes it's very similar to the taste of paprika has that musty, deep, a little bitter taste, that not only adds color, but adds a depth of flavor that's very, very minimally almost. And, and, and a tad sweet. And I use it to prepare soups or in rice. Imagine is like the red tumeric. It could be a good description for it.
CK: So, for arepas, how do you make the dough because I think your techniques a little bit different than what I was used to?
MV: Yeah, so the, the traditional way of making a pass is using cracked corn or corn that you soak in lime for a very long time. And then you cook it so that it gets standard. So here we sort of like cut one step. And I use cracked corn, I soak it and then he gets cooked until it's very soft. And then I grind it usually using a meat grinder, one of those metal contraptions that you attach to the side of the table or the kitchen counter, and it forms into a great shiny, beautiful paste. And then you form the arepas and I add some butter in some cases, oil, salt, geez, if you like and then you shape it into a thin cake. And then it gets cooked.
CK: And is this a very specific type of corn that's used for this?
MV: Yes, it's usually white corn. And here in the US, you find that as that as cracked corn. There are also all these heirloom mills that have incredible corn varieties. And you can buy, there's a huge array of options that you can find. But most commonly at the grocery store, you find cracked corn that comes in a bag.
CK: And then there are also the sweet corn arepas, the chocolate, right?
MV: Right, and those are my favorite, because they're just so sweet and delicious. And the corn that is used is sweet corn is a yellow corn. And that has butter and a little bit of sugar, vanilla, and cheese. And there's really comforting and then I add a tomato salad with avocado to top it to make it more of a brunch,
CK: Cero ice cream with labneh ice cream do you want to just talk about that.
MV: So, this cero ice cream as I was saying earlier cero is essentially the labneh that we took on from the Lebanese and Syrian immigrants. And so, it's now an ingrained accompaniment cero’s always on the table. And so I wanted these manmade pie in my maze and that delicious creamy tropical fruit that reminds me of a sweet potato or a very ripe persimmon. So, I wanted that ice cream to contrast that richness and cero sort was perfect.
CK: So, let's talk about sugar panella. So, I've been on this crusade in the last few years about white flour, which has no flavor and white sugar, which has no flavor. And all these other cultures around the world. I mean, even in this country, there's all sorts of sugars that are less processed and have tremendous flavor. So, you want to talk about panella because it just seems like it's a game changer. If you want to just add flavor to what you're cooking.
MV: Panella so imagine sugarcane. It's taken down and it gets passed through these really strong mills, and it gets crushed and all of that juice, it's filtered into this huge copper vats, and it gets boiled down until it's a thick, thick dark syrup. And it's a very artisanal process even to this day. And so, this syrup takes on that incredible woodfire taste and it gets taken to a point of almost being burned so very very deep caramel and then gets poured into these square or round molds until it sets and dries. So, it really adds on a depth of flavor that as you say, white sugar doesn't. And to the point that we even have our panella which is a little cube of panella in boiling water, and that's a beverage you know we add lime or ginger and that's you know, that's a breakfast drink. So panella has a lot of flavor and you can reuse in baking in savory foods in my post ____ which is this braised beef that I have. It's basically what makes the sauce the vanilla and wine and which is reduces down and is a perfect combination of sweet and salty.
CK: You know, when I was looking at your book yesterday, I saw essentially toast with panella on it and prosciutto (Yes) as a snack, I ran out to the store to get prosciutto because I go like this I don't know why just, it's so interesting when you see a combination you've never seen before like that. That sounds I'm going to have it today. It just sounds lovely. Brisket dust. I mean, this is twice cooked brisket that ends up getting, I guess very well cooked. And then you turn it into a dust. Could you that's a new one on me
MV: Yeah. So, it's the perfect addition to the beans that have been stewed these red bean soup. You cook the brisket in the pressure cooker with lots of flavor. You know, you have onions, you have cilantro, you have garlic, you have scallions and, and it gets cooked to tears right until it's very, very tender. And you put it in the food processor, the blender, and it literally turns into a powder. But a powder that has incredible taste. It's like like Parmesan cheese to pasta, you know, you you dust it over the beans with rice and with a dollop of ____ which is a really tiny vinegar sauce that we have made with cilantro and red chilies and onions. And so yeah, it's it's very particular to the region of Antioquia. And because nothing gets thrown away, you know, I, I feel like it's also cuisine that saves every step, every little bit gets used in other moments, that broth from the brisket dust, I let it cool, and then I skim it, and it becomes the perfect hot cup of broth for wintertime.
CK: So are there places in Colombia, that still, it sounds like there's a huge range of places with unpaved roads on one hand, and then Bogota, or something on the other. So, the diversity of the culture and the way people live, seems particularly broad in Colombia. Is that right?
MV: Yeah, that's correct. Even even the way we speak, every region has its own accent and its different sayings and words, for very common things. You know, I talk about el algo. In the book, which is this something you know, that afternoon snack, that little bit to keep you going. And in every region of the country is there's a different name for it. So, the food also changes and the way people live is quite different. Also, because the climate is so diverse, is not the same if you're a farmer in Bodega, high up in the mountains, with your traditional wool runners, which are like these beautiful long ponchos to Nuqui, which is a town right on the Pacific Ocean, with the jungle kisses the sea. That's a very different life, you know, the music, the way people dance, all doors are open. So, it's many, many cultures within one place.
CK: My wife would live on the beach and party, and I'd be up at 9000 feet in the cold and rain. Because that's I think that's basically my personality. How much are things changed in the last 20 to 30 years? And I know, you know, decades ago in Paris, people would go home for lunch, right which they don't do much anymore. The family dinners, etc. Is Colombia changing just like every other place in the world? A little more slowly, maybe. But it's it's changing.
MV: It's changing. You're right that it is a little more slowly. But in rural towns, in smaller towns, people still go home for lunch. People still have a siesta; they take a nap after eating. And those traditions are still maintained. But Colombia is changing slowly. And is interesting. My husband works in radio, and we always talk about how the power of radio continues to be huge in our country. Because there's places where we literally like TV signals hard to get. And so, radio is the way you get your news. And even to this day, the main cities is more important to be on radio than to be on TV. It's more influential
CK: Okay, I have to move to Colombia tomorrow because that would be my favorite way to live would be radio not television. Mariana, thank you so much for being on Milk Street.
MV: Thank you.
CK: That was Mariana Velasquez. Her book is Colombiana: A Rediscovery of Recipes and Rituals from the Soul of Colombia. You’re listening to Milk Street Radio, it's time to chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe. spicy and sour Julianne potato salad with Sichuan pepper. Lynn, how are you?
Lynn Clark: I'm great, Chris.
CK: You know I recently interviewed Jason Wang he has a cookbook Xi’an Famous Foods, which is also a restaurant or a series of restaurants in New York. And one of the recipes was a potato salad, but nothing like any potato salad I've ever made. This one is julienned potato salad. So how do they make it
LC: So, you're going to really knock the socks off the people at your next summer barbecue with this potato salad because it's nothing like anything they've ever had. There's no Mayo here, and the potatoes are cut into match sticks. So that offers a lot more surface area for the flavor of the dressing or the oil that we're going to use here. You can do this on the mandolin using the julienne blade or you can practice your knife skills and do it with a chef's knife. We boil the potatoes until they're crisp tender so a little bit under what you would normally do and then toss it with vinegar, sesame oil and sugar while the potatoes are still hot. And that will really allow those flavors to absorb into the potato.
CK: So you have vinegar you have spicy chilies you have Sichuan peppercorns, which are not really spicy, they're tingly you have some paprika, you have a lot of things going on.
LC: Right so we make chili oil essentially. So, we've got neutral oil with those peppercorns and dried chilies, a little bit of paprika. Cook that until that oil is the hot and those spices have bloomed. Then we strain out the solids and pour that over the top of the potatoes on top of the potatoes we put some scallion whites, so when you pour that hot oil over it kind of almost cooks those scallion whites, and then that hot oil gets tossed with the potatoes as well.
CK: And that hot oil on scallions in ginger was just a classic technique, right.
LC: It's a great technique that we don't use a lot here, but they use all over Asia. And it's a really great way to kind of keep the freshness of the scallions but also soften them just a bit.
CK: So, if you want to be a hero at your next picnic, you might try this spicy and sour Julian potato salad with Sichuan pepper. Lynn Thank you.
LC: You're welcome. You can get this recipe for spicy and sour julienned potato salad with Sichuan pepper at Milk Street Radio.com
CK: This is Milk Street radio coming up its Adam Gopnik on the dinner revolution we'll be right back. I'm Christopher Kimball, you're listening to Milk Street radio right now it's time for some culinary wisdom from one of our listeners.
Caller: Hi, this is Pete McDonough from Pennington, New Jersey. I have a tip for buttering ears of corn. Take a slice of bread, cut it into quarters and put one pad of butter on each quarter. Use that quarter the bread. smear the butter on your corn and then eat the bread when you're done. No messy knife, no messing up the whole stick of butter, no mess, no fuss, and it's great just like Jersey corn it’s the best there is bye
CK: By the way if you'd like to share your own advice or cooking tip on Milk Street Radio, please go to 177 Milk Street.com slash radio tips. Next up let's find out what Adam Gopnik is thinking about this week. Adam how you doing?
Adam Gopnik: I am well Chris, how are you?
CK: Good what's on your mind this week?
AG: I had my daughter and her friend Tanya here in the house for the past week or so. And I noticed something very different between my basic expectations of eating and dining and there's. They are what I think is called late millennials. And don't ask me to distinguish a late millennial from a generation Z or much less a generation Xer. I am a late boomer and they are late millennials and I still begin every day being the cook at the house and the food obsessive thinking about what we are going to have for dinner. And when I am thinking about what we are going to have for dinner, what I mean by that is what will be the chief protein that sits on the plate and what will sit around it. So, I say annoyingly early at 8am or so, darling, what would you and Tanya enjoy for dinner? Would you like some chicken or some fish or a pasta, and they look at me with dull blank stares, not merely of distaste, but have a certain kind of pitying dislike, because I don't understand how it is that human beings eat. And I take it for granted that that's the way human beings eat. You take something a significant protein, you put it on your plate cooked one way or another, and you embroider decorate, supplement it with other dishes. What they want for dinner is first of all, not dinner, they want to have a host of small dishes that gets spread out through the night. They nibble on this, and they nosh on that. And it can be Oh, pretty much anything. It can be chickpeas with a chopped parsley and jalapeno salad. Or it could be a pasta with ginger and spiced beef. But whatever it is, they don't want a lot of it, and they want a lot of things coming at them in small doses one by one.
CK: Well, I have a key question here, which is lots of cultures, you know, mezze, for example, in the Middle East, Turkish culture, other places. That's not uncommon. But I wonder if you're also saying they don't actually want to sit down and have a meal, they want to graze over time. Is that true as well?
AG: Well, with your usual as celerity, and clarity, you have anticipated and indeed rather canceled my next point, which is that this is exactly Chris, this is the planetary norm. This is how most people eat in most places most of the time. It is true that it's tied in my daughter's late millennial habits, as it is in most of planetary cooking, to not being fixed to a particular time to eat but seeing eating as an ongoing event through the day. What's striking to me is that that habit has now become the norm for the first time in my lifetime anyway, for a whole generation. And I got to thinking Chris about what caused this planetary transformation. Two things particularly came to mind. You mentioned meze, which is certainly part of it. But I think even more directly was the tapas revolution
CK: Right but I’ve got to say something about that the tapas is food eaten at a bar cafe. And then you would actually go have dinner and meze you're still sitting there with family with lots of plates on the table. It's still a group experience. So even though I know we're both quasi philosophers, I think it's okay to pass judgment here. Can I do that? Can I just say,
AG Please, judge, judge,
CK: The early or late millennials have it wrong. Food has to be consumed with other people around the table, no matter what's on the plate, right?
AG: Well, as you know, I wrote an entire book called The Table Comes First, which as you may recall, was on the theme that what mattered most was the human energy around the table, rather than the products on the table. And I still believe that's true. But this generation of Americans, and I suspect it's broader than Americans has put together from tapas from meze, from all kinds of things, their own new style of eating, they eat together, but they eat in bursts rather than in, you know, bonanza of eating. I think another thing that fed into that new form was the sushi craze, right? Because sushi is a form of food, that demands a different kind of time. But here's the fascinating thing in terms of what you were just saying, I did the thing that philosophers should never do. I sat down and I asked my daughter and her friend Tanya, why they ate the way they ate. What they said to me, I thought was interesting. They said, it's part of a larger sensibility that's generational. They believe in compartmentalization and in choice. Their lives are compartmentalized in lots of ways, their politics, education, sex, they're all things that they can often pursue quite separately. They like to keep things compartmentalized and they passionately believe in choice, and having gustatory choice is hugely important to them. And what I see as generosity, what should we have for dinner tonight, they experience as coercion, they experience it as I will close you in on the thing that I have chosen, and you will have no choice but to share it. Of course, it's the classic tyranny and dictatorship of the French chef here is what we're having, and here's what you will eat.
CK: I can say two things. Please feel free to come up to Boston and live with me and ask the question eight in the morning, what would you like for dinner, because we'd be very happy to have you. And secondly, the next time your daughter looks at you with sad and doleful eyes. It may have nothing to do with your menu choice. Just keep that in mind.
AG: Oh that goes without saying that you always are looked at with sad and doleful eyes, you're always the most embarrassing, ridiculous and annoying human being on earth and you make coercive demands for dinner, all of those things without question flow together, the best we can hope for, from our children, I've often said, is pity intolerance. And we know that because that's the best we ever give our parents. But I do think the caller when you have the sensibility of compartmentalization and choice that they were articulating for me, really is a generational change. Our generation, my generation, at least, we were less obsessed with choice, it seems to me, then with celebrating excellence, we wanted to go out into the world and find out what the best thing was a French cooking first with Julia and then with Italian cooking with Marcela and we made our way around the world in that way. They begin with the fact of choice, and all they want to do is fet it is to carry it on. And so, I'm sure you'll be glad to know Chris, I have zipped my lip and I no longer demand every morning. What would you like for dinner? I simply bustle around in the interstices of writing make a little of this and a little of that, and sometime vaguely around seven o'clock, I start to share it.
CK: I don't like choice very much, but my kids do as do yours. And now you've explained why they don't eat my food
AG: Oh, delighted to do it.
CK: That was Adam Gopnik, staff writer for The New Yorker. If you tuned in too late, just want to listen again. You can download and subscribe to Milk Street Radio on Apple podcast Spotify, wherever you find your podcast. To learn more about Milk Street, please go to 177 Milk Street Telecom. There you can download each week's recipe. Watch the latest season of a TV show or order our latest cookbook, Tuesday Night's Mediterranean. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimbell’s Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week and thanks as always for listening.
Christopher Kimball's Milk Street radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH Executive Producer Melissa Baldino, senior audio editor Melissa Allison, producer Sarah Clapp and Jason Turetsky. Production assistant, Amelia McGuire and production help from Debby Paddock. Additional Editing by Sidney Lewis audio mixing by Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe additional music by George Brando Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX